Chai Symbol History, Linguistics and Symbolism

The chai symbol has originated from the Hebrew word meaning life or alive & depicts that something is living. It is spelt using the Hebrew letter Chet and the Yud.

The people of the Jew religion often wear a necklace which has the chai symbol on them in the form of a medallion or amulet and sometimes with a Hamsa.

Folks use the symbol in the form of an eye, which is embedded in the palm of an open hand and is said to be one of the prominent symbols of the Jewish faith. The bracelets and earrings with this particular symbol are very popular.

The Symbolic Meaning of Chai

In the religion of Judaism, the emphasis is laid on the importance of life just like several other religions. The Jewish people are encouraged to be good and ethical.

The Symbolic Meaning of Chai
The Symbolic Meaning of Chai

It is believed that they should exhibit it like thoughtfulness, kindness & selflessness and also remain good-natured throughout their life.

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Its answers mean that they should enjoy the time they are spending on the earth. Commontoast or saying is the L’chaim, which means cheers to life.

This particular phrase is always used at cheerful events like weddings, birthdays, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana, Friday Shabbat services, and other Jewish celebrations in anticipation of all the good things that are to come.

For the Jewish people, the symbol of chai symbolises the value of life and also the hope which supports it.

It is also considered to be a symbolic representation of the will of a person, to live and to serve as a reminder to the people of Jewish culture, to protect and live the life.

Like the other Jewish symbols, the chai symbol is a very popular image and has many applications which are used in the sculptures and paintings along with tapestries and plaques.

The Gift of Chai Symbol

The symbol of chai is considered to be a gift. According to the Gematria, which is a mythical Jewish tradition which assigns a numerical value to the Hebrew letters, the letters Chet and Yud are known to add up and arrive at the number 18.

The Gift of Chai Symbol
The Gift of Chai Symbol

The Chet has a numerical value of 8 assigned to it and the remaining has the value of 10 assigned to it. As a result of this, the number 18 has become a very popular number which is considered to be a representation of good luck.

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At the weddings and other such events, the Jewish people often distribute gifts of money in the multiples of 18 to their relatives and friends which is considered to be a symbolic representation of giving good luck or lucky charm to them.

This particular manner of giving the gifts to their loved ones is referred to as giving the Chai.

This nomenclature has extended to the multiples as the number 36 is commonly referred to as the symbolic representation of double chai.

History of Symbol of Chai

According to the various religious books and a newspaper published in the Jewish tradition like the forward: The chai symbol can be traced back to medieval Spain and was used in the form of an amulet in the Eastern parts of Europe, in the 18th century.

History of Symbol of Chai
History of Symbol of Chai

Letters of this particular symbol were used in the Jewish culture as far back as the earliest roots of the Jewish culture.

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The Talmud states that the world was created from the letters, which had been originated from Hebrew and the verses of the Torah.

Chai symbol is linked to the various texts of the Kabbalah, which is a Jewish mystical movement that begins in the 12th century.

This particular term has also appeared a minimum of three times in the holy book of Bible including in the Deuteronomy and the Leviticus.

Am Yisrael Chai

In the year 2009, the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu visited a building in Berlin where Adolf Hitler & other leaders who belonged to Third Reich planned for the destruction of the Jews present in Europe in the year 1942.

Am Yisrael Chai
Am Yisrael Chai

He then signed the book of the visitors with 3 words written, first in the language of Hebrew and then translated into the English language. The words were Am Yisrael Chai, which means the people of Israel live.

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This phrase became very popular in Jewish culture & has also appeared at different solemn occasions. It is used in the form of prayer of the salts & for the declaration of the long-term survival of the country of Israel.

And all the Jewish people who had been threatened with the annihilation many times over the past centuries, mostly for the period of the holocaust.

Chai Symbol in Popular Culture

The chai symbol has been used in various other segments, apart from the religious beliefs and practices. Although the jewellery is considered to be the most important part of displaying the chai symbol.

Chai Symbol in Popular Culture
Symbol of Chai in Popular Culture

But one should understand that this is not the only way of doing so. Among the many items which are adorned with chai, some modern items like t-shirts and the mugs as well are used.

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And also the traditional Jewish items like the prayer shawls and religious objects, which consists of a decorative case and protecting a piece of parchment are also made using this particular symbol.

This symbol is also used in tapestries, paintings and other literature and artwork.

So, one can say that the broader exposure for a form of the term chai for those people who belong to outside the Jewish faith, is from the long and popular musical movie fiddler on the roof.

And also from the song “L’chaim!”, that is performed in celebration of the marriage of Tevye’s daughter.

The lyrics say in part:

“Here’s to our prosperity, our good health and happiness,

and most important …

To life, to life, L’chaim!”

Linguistics of Chai Symbol

Understanding the linguistics of the Chai symbol, we get to know that this particular word is made up of two letters, which have originated from the Hebrew language.

Linguistics of Chai Symbol
Linguistics of Chai

The first alphabet is Chet and the second alphabet is Yud. Both these alphabets together from the word chai, which has the meaning of alive or living.

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If we see the most common spelling in the Latin script of the chai, the word would occasionally be found in the form of Hai.

But the usual modern pronunciation of this particular word is said, while transcription from the biblical and the Mishnaic would have been in the form of [hai], which would be a word with the pharyngeal consonant.

In the Hebrew, the related word for this chai symbol is Chaya, which has the meaning of living thing or animal but is derived from the Hebrew word chai, which has the meaning of life.

Numerology of Chai

Talking about numerology associated with the symbol of chai, one can see that there have been various mystical numerological speculations related to it.

Numerology of Chai Symbol
Numerology of Chai

According to a system of gematria, the letters of the word chai add up and form the number 18.

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For this particular reason, the number 18 is considered to be very spiritual in the culture of Judaism and many Jews give the gifts in the form of money which is a number multiple of 18 to their relatives and friends.


The Chai symbol is considered to be a very important and lucky symbol by the people of the Jewish culture. It has numerical as well as linguistic importance attached to it from these people.

The number 18 is often associated with the chai symbol as the letters of the word chai add up to the same and is followed by the people by presenting money or gifts to their relatives and friends in the multiple of 18.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What number is often associated with the symbol Chai?

The number 18 is often associated with the symbol Chai because the letters of the word chai add up to make the same, and is also considered to be a very auspicious number by them.

How is the symbol Chai used in the popular culture, apart from the regular use?

The symbol Chai is used as a print on various kinds of mugs and T-shirts. This symbol is also used in the form of a bracelet and other types of jewellery by the women and as well as by the young boys and men.

From which two letters is the word chai made?

The word chai is made from the two words Chet and Yud.

What does 18 mean in Hebrew language?

Eighteen is the numerical value of the Hebrew word “chai” which means “life.” It’s a deceptively simple two letter word made up of the Hebrew letters “chet” and “yud.” It is a Jewish custom to give monetary gifts in increments of 18, thus symbolically blessing the recipient of the gift with a good long life.